The Routledge Companion to Nineteenth Century Philosophy

By Dean Moyar | Go to book overview

30
EDMUND HUSSERL

Christian Beyer


Synopsis

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, the Austro-German mathematician and philosopher Edmund Husserl managed both to bring the predominant “psychologistic” philosophy of mathematics and logic of his time to a culmination and to overcome that philosophy. He did so by developing, in his Logical Investigations (LI), a forceful critique of psychologism as well as a positive approach, his “phenomenology of logical experiences (Phänomenologie der logischen Erlebnisse),” which he associated with a platonistic ontology of meaning and thought content.

The work of the early (pre-LI) Husserl can be subdivided into three thematic fields, namely (i) the descriptive psychological study of the basic concepts of arithmetic and logic, (ii) the foundations of a logic of contents (Inhaltslogik), as opposed to a logic of extensions (Umfangslogik), and (iii) the problem of intentional objects and reference. Husserl’s early approaches to (i) and (iii), at least, remain of considerable interest today, whilst his work on (ii) (which will be left aside in what follows) has probably been superseded by the development originating from Frege’s Begriffsschrift and advanced by Russell and Whitehead.

His LI from 1900/1 continue these early approaches in some important respects. LI are the first chief work of phenomenology, which was to become a major current of twentieth-century philosophy, along with analytic philosophy, whose insights have been partly anticipated by Husserl. On the basis of the results achieved in this work, Husserl later developed a method he called “transcendental phenomenology.” This method has us focus, in a radically unprejudiced way, on the essential structures of intentional (i.e. object-directed) consciousness that allow the objects naively taken for granted in the “natural attitude” (which is characteristic of both the “personalistic” stance we use to take in our everyday life and the “naturalistic” stance taken in ordinary science) to “constitute themselves.”


Life and early work

Husserl was born in Prossnitz (Moravia) on 8 April 1859, as the second of four children of the hatter Adolf Husserl and his wife Julie (for the following, see Schuhmann

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